Friday, January 26, 2018

Guest Post: Inside the Mind of a Cheater (Me)

by StillStanding1

(Editor's note: These are the words of our wise and compassionate StillStanding1. They are the result of mining her own pain and sifting through her own story to find what's true for her. Her words might be difficult for some to read so please do what's best for you.)

I know many of us post D-day wonder how our spouses could be so selfish, how they could choose to hurt us, the people they promised to protect and love How could they do it?  What were they thinking? As it happens, I am a mad hatter – someone who has both cheated and been cheated on. I’m in a position to shed some light on those questions, with the caveat that it is just one person’s experience and perspective.

The Backstory
Those of you who have not seen my posts over in “Separating and Divorcing” may not know that I cheated on my ex husband while we were married. Before I begin a brief description of the setting and factors, know that I own and recognize that this is one of the most awful, hurtful things I have ever done, that I have worked hard to understand why and to make amends. That I was the one that gave him the words “this was not your fault.” That we stayed together for another 12 years before his cheating brought our marriage to an end.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family marked by my mother’s alcoholism (in response to PTSD after her house was blown up around her during WW2) and the codependency and denial of everyone around her. I was the poster child for shame and self-loathing. Nothing I did was ever good enough and when I needed something it was always too much. I was raped by my best friend in college. Not surprisingly, I struggled with depression and intimacy for years. Also, not surprisingly I married an emotionally unavailable guy with secrets. Fast forward to post 2nd child, I had severe postpartum depression. I shut the door to my office, so I could cry during the day. I went to the doctor and a well-intentioned NP put me on a megadose of an anti-depressant. It felt pretty good. Too good. (Go chug two glasses of wine. That’s how I felt all the time.) The problem was, I was still in enormous pain (i.e. the postpartum) but now there was medication mania layered over it.  Throw into this flammable mess a lighted match: turns out mom was a serial cheater in addition to a boozer and she used me as a cover for her party lifestyle. All the sleepovers at my friend Kristen’s house, where my mom would come too, were not our special mother/daughter weekends. They were just a blind. Kristen’s mom (single) was one of her drinking buddies and they would get themselves fancy, go out to party and pick up men. As a child, I loved going to Kristen’s house, playing with her Snoopy doll, watching Wonder Woman and having her grandmother put us to bed. The revelations from my sister (who was dealing with her own anger with my mother at the time) filled in some of the details that I did not realize were significant as a small girl. The sense of betrayal at the hands of my own mother was enormous and indescribably painful. Any last shred of hope that she might actually love me was gone. I don’t know how else to describe what happened inside me other than “I broke.”  This was the final confirmation that I was the most worthless, unlovable person on the planet.

The Why
Each cheater’s “why” is different, but I promise you it boils down to shame, fear and self-loathing. All of these feelings stem from unresolved childhood trauma. Many of you will look at your spouse and think “what trauma?” he says he had a great childhood. Trauma doesn’t have to be big. It could have been ongoing micro cuts, a prolonged series of shaming events, lack of love or attention. Boys, just like girls, get so many messages about how they don’t measure up and when parental figures don’t help pick them back up or when they even reinforce those messages, they accumulate. Over time, we become convinced that we are not worthy. Big trauma also happens to boys, as we see increasingly in the news but they have less venues to talk about it and get help.
And then there’s this: Trauma is passed on when undealt with – the trauma doesn’t have to be first person. So if your parent has PTSD, this can be scary for you as a kid. And double whammy, you learn their numbing and avoidance behaviors as life skills. As a child you take it personally when a parent is withdrawn or emotionally unavailable (I still have such a hard time with this in relationships). As a child, you can either over identify and take on the behaviors in an attempt to connect with the parents, or you may become the rescuer or “parentified” and take on responsibilities your parent should have done for you. Or you may end up emotionally uninvolved, withdrawn, depressed and have relationship troubles later in life.
Some of this stuff feels pretty familiar, right? Pieces falling into place? The bottom line is that each of us brings some messed up stuff with us into adulthood. For cheaters, it’s often a deep-rooted belief that we are unloved and unlovable. It’s a place of tremendous pain. At some point, the pain becomes too much or is triggered in some way and we take too many steps in the wrong direction.
How does it start?: I think for most, it is a kind of validation seeking. A chance to feel “better” or “ok” even for a split second. We can pretend like we aren’t hurting or not completely ashamed of who we are. I believe there is one point of entry; the slippery slope.  It’s little steps. I’m not doing anything wrong.
This isn’t hurting anyone: I was just chatting online with men. It was just chat. The attention felt good, made me feel less worthless. And it wasn’t cheating. He used porn every day, so I was allowed to chat (justification). It's just the same. But I also wasn’t telling him what I was doing because I was afraid he might not like it (sneaking, denial).
He was not thinking of you. Except for when he was: I was not thinking about my husband when I was chatting with men online. Just like I didn’t think about him when I was talking to people at work. I did sometimes feel guilty. I ignored those warning signs because I was getting some deep pain temporarily numbed. And when I finally met up with some of those men in person for drinks, I wasn’t thinking about him then either. Not until after, when I felt terrible and guilty and absolutely sure, now, more than ever, that I was the worst person alive. I can remember being out on a run and thinking over and over “what am I doing? What if he finds out? He’s going to leave me and take the kids. I have to stop. What am I doing?” But I couldn’t stop. It was like a compulsion.
When he says he doesn’t remember, he’s probably telling the truth: There’s so much I don’t remember. Details that no longer matter to me because those people never mattered at all. But I’m sure my husband recalls situations because he was doing that piecing together the timeline thing. When I was here doing X you were off doing Y. I don’t even remember names at this point, it’s been so long and those people don’t deserve any space in my head. And denial and self-protection kick in. Our minds take over and soften these things, so we can keep going. 
Why do they keep going back to the poisoned well: If they are so wracked with pain and guilt and shame, why do they keep doing it? Why not just stop? Because it is just like any other compulsion/addiction. You do some and it feels good and then it feels shitty, so you do some more in the hopes it will feel good again. I can also say that from my own experience, it felt like cutting myself. I was already a horrible person, why not just do more damage to myself. I was going to end up a prostitute because I was so worthless. I was hoping, at one point, that one of the men would kill me and dump the body. Pain and shame.
Rewriting history: I know that during the affair, cheaters will often rewrite history, your story, to justify what they are doing. They have a rotten life, a neglectful, nagging spouse, so they deserve to pursue a little “happiness.” This was my husband when he cheated. Life was so bad with me that he had to escape. Turns out he was trying to escape, not from me, but from himself and from years of lying and denying his own story. I do not recall needing to rewrite history to justify what I was doing. I knew it was awful, I was simply imploding, destroying my life. It was a cry for help no different than my suicide attempt after being raped.  Some of your spouses are rewriters and some are simply imploding. Both behaviors are driven by shame and guilt.
Being mad at you while he’s acting out or being super nice to you while he’s acting outboth are faces of guilt: Some will be short-tempered and angry with you. Nothing you do is right. If they make you the villain in their rewritten history then they are justified in their shitty choices. Or they are so consumed with guilt, they go out of their way to do nice things, to pay attention to you, buy you presents, get extra affectionate. It seems like life is great. Until you find out that it isn’t. I was in this second camp. My husband was in the first. Both behaviors are driven by shame and guilt.

Discovery vs confession – why I think this matters to your recovery timeline
I think there is a difference between confessing and discovery but it's nuanced and it doesn’t mean you can’t bounce back and stay together. A cheater who confesses is taking steps to own what they have done, be honest and make things right. One who is caught can definitely get there too but they are reeling, just like you. I think it takes longer to get to a starting point from discovery. The timeline is extended by the cheaters’ fogged brain and waffling and trying to sort out what they’ve done and what they want. Some are caught and are instantly remorseful and want to work on fixing things. More often they are ambivalent. And this is the shittiest, hardest path. So if your spouse has confessed, take a breath and think about what you need to feel safe and to move forward together (or not together, if you'd prefer). If you’ve caught your spouse, then you have the same options but you also will determine how long you wait for them to get sorted and what you will and will not put up with in the meantime.
His response will be shame. What he does with that shame depends on what he learned about shame growing up and the other shame he’s been carrying around. No matter whether he’s confessed or been discovered, there is going to be so much shame. And his behaviors and choices are going to have a lot to do with what drove him to cheat in the first place. He’s likely to display the same shitty coping strategies he’s been using all along. You are lost and it is so hard to know what is the next right move, even when you know you want to make amends. Understand that when he gets mad that you want to talk about it again – that’s his shame talking. When he refuses to go to a therapist – that’s his shame talking. When he wants to act like it is all in the past – that’s his shame talking. And until he’s ready to deal with and root out the source of his shame, he’s going to stay stuck.
And remember, even the poster boy for the most remorseful spouse ever is going to screw up at some point. He could be doing everything right and then one day forget to check in at lunch. It may not mean he’s cheating again. It may mean that he’s starting to recover (and it's going to piss you off that he’s even remotely moving on if you are not). Talk about it in a safe venue for you both. Reset the ground rules. Begin again if that works for you. I went to a work happy hour a few months after I confessed to my husband. I forgot to check in. I drank too much (medicating my shame, still). My husband panicked and asked my mother-in-law to watch the kids while he looked for me. So the price I paid for screwing up was that my MIL learned that I had cheated. The price of undealt-with shame is more shame. I was so lost in my own pain and misguided attempts to recover that I had no idea how much my action would frighten and hurt him. None.
Why doesn’t he understand how hurt I am?: Because you don’t get it until you get it, very often until it happens to you. Just like our friends don’t really get it (and why we feel so heard and understood here). You know when I got it? About a month after he cheated. I was deep in my own pain. We were in false reconciliation. I was weeping uncontrollably on him (full oceans of tears and boogers) while he held me and all I could say was “I did this to you. I did this to you.” Because I finally grasped how much I had hurt him. And I was horrified.
Why does he want to just “move on”?: One word: shame. He doesn’t want to have to feel the shame of what he has done. He doesn’t want to have to face the hurt he’s caused or in himself. Its okay to want to take a break from being in that space. I get it. It's exhausting. But you have to both come back to it until you both are ready to leave it behind.

Some final thoughts: Problems in the marriage are not an excuse to cheat – he’ll try to lay that on you anyway. Our marriage counselor definitely held my husband responsible for not taking better care of me, whatever that means. It’s a shame we didn’t know better and find a more qualified therapist. My marriage was not perfect when I cheated. We were in the thick of the childbearing years. You’re exhausted and often lonely together. He was absorbed with work. I was drowning in babies. None of it meant it was okay to cheat. My cheating was not his fault. It was a shitty coping strategy for dealing with old, old pain triggered by new news. His cheating is not your fault. It was never about you. It was and is 100% about his own pain and shame and history.
There are different kinds of cheaters. There are true narcissists. People who are solely out for themselves and remorseless about hurting others. I think these folks are rare and are still operating from a place of pain. Self-centeredness is a deeply lonely and isolated place. I believe most cheaters were once decent humans who truly lost their way. Some find their way back and some just don’t, either because they can’t or because they are too afraid to do something different.
Getting a second chance with my husband was one of the most important and loving things that had happened in my life up to that point. And I did my broken, imperfect best with it. I’ve spent years in therapy and I feel like I understand how I got there and why I will never be there again. I knew, for a little while, what it felt like to be chosen and how important that was for my recovery. It’s why I stayed and fought for my ex for so long. I understood where he was and how much you need someone to believe in you when you are there. I’m not excusing cheating and I’m not advocating for staying longer in any situation than is good for you. At some point, I had to take responsibility for believing in myself, in both stories. At some point our spouses need to be responsible for believing in themselves too.


  1. Thank you for sharing ss1, you make it easier to understand.. appreciate you taking the time to write your story. I felt really calm after reading your post .. much love xx

    1. Thanks Sam A. I'm hoping it helped. Much love SS1

  2. SS1 - thank you for being so open and honest and sharing this with us, with me. Much of what you said helped give me a bit of perspective, of hope, of validation. Thank you for being brave. Always.

    1. Jules, it was a little scary, I'll be honest, but I felt really convicted that this story might help folks here understand even more that their spouse's cheating was never about them. xo

    2. SS1
      Along with everyone else, thank you for sharing your story and insight. It definitely shed a more humane light on the perspective of some who cheat. Honestly, I think it may help me to not villainize my H so much, maybe even have some compassion though that may be a stretch for where I am (only 90 days post DDay).
      Thank you for being so brave!

  3. Thank you for your bravery in telling us your story.

    I too am guilty of cheating in my first marriage. While I was never caught (and he still doesn't know) I still feel shame guilt all these years later.

    I also remember the feelings of not being able to stop despite knowing how wrong and destructive my actions were. I never had to admit to anything but I believe when we are not living in reality, we can forget details and our minds actually make up different stories that we believe to be true. I'm not excusing yours or my or anyone's cheating spouse in knowingly lying and/or omitting (and I certainly have a difficult time with my sex addict's lying/omitting AND forgetting), but there is a fog and fine line of not really knowing 100% what is real - because despite how extremely painful affairs are, affairs aren't real life.

    1. Spouse of SA, I'm here with you. I know how much that hurts, hanging on to that shame. I felt like such a faker until I started owning that part of my story. And it really only happened recently. As in since I came to BWC. I'd read in a Brene Brown book about owning all parts of our stories because if we deny part of who we've been, we will never feel whole.
      I know it is hard, but if you are seeing a therapist, maybe you can get curious and dig in to your episode of cheating with them. Really sit with that shame and then think about what it would feel like to not carry that around any more. What would you need to do to let it go? And forgive yourself for it?
      I'm giving you a huge hug Spouse of SA. Thank YOU for sharing your story too.

  4. StillStanding1 – I love you. There. Plain and simple … I think you’re one of the most amazing people I’ve ever encountered. You are just simply amazing. Please … print that out for those dark moments. Some overly hormonal pregnant lady in the middle of the country thinks you’re fucking amazing.
    Hi – my name is Kimberly – and I have both stories too. I had a long post started to Blindside’s question about another affair and killed it because in it I would have to reveal the mid-section of our story … which was my affair.
    2002 – moved in together; 2003 – married – 2007 learned he’d been “cheating” since 2002.
    I moved out but moved home a week later. I planned on using him so I could finish my degree and then I’d file for divorce. We NEVER dealt with that time period. I mean I didn’t know if he’d actually slept with any of these women. I didn’t even know if he stopped doing it. I knew nothing other than I was driven to finish my degree and leave him. I found out I was pregnant in April. Marriage continues.
    In 2012 I set out on a major weight loss journey. I went from 344 lbs to roughly 140ish … I thought it would make my husband desire me more. I thought it would make me happier. I thought …
    I went to an all school reunion in 2013. I knew that an old crush would be there. I *wanted* someone to tell me how smoking hot I was. He didn’t disappoint. I chose not to go down that rabbit hole that night … I didn’t tell my husband – which is sign #1 that I was receptive to the affair. 2 weeks later after too much to drink, it happened – it was June. It “happened” another time in November. In December I was actually at an event with my AP and his entire family … until that point I separated everything from those 2 encounters. I never thought about his wife or children … I never thought about mine. I let things fizzle with AP. I NEVER told my husband. He never suspected.
    So why did it really happen? I used to say it was because my husband didn’t pay me any attention … he didn’t say things that I needed him to say … and for crying out loud he did X, Y and Z back in 2007 so what’s good for the goose is good for the gander? In retrospect my affair was a 20 year event in the making. I wanted so desperately to be wanted … like really, really wanted by anyone. Didn’t matter. I just needed someone to validate my existence. My AP did that.
    So it should never have come to any surprise that my H also was also stepping out. Late 2013 – 1st Craiglist Ad/meet someone … 2014 – wife pregnant – another Craigslist ad/meet someone – 2015 – just had a baby – another Craigslist ad/meet someone … he swears that nothing happened until recently … 2016 – he’s angry at the world … another Craigslist ad … 2017 … he places numerous ads and meets OW in late March … “it” happens in mid-April … my *8 year old* clues me in in early June … DDay – June 20. Pregnant … sometime within the next few days.
    The worst part. I told H about my affair the night I found out about his. I’m sure the real reason I told him after all these years was to show him that SOMEONE found me desirable … I also used it a few times in the coming days to get my digs in – his OW was larger than me … not very successful … a needy woman. My AP … (yes … I know this is SO wrong of me) … but I cheated UP! He cheated down.
    My biggest fear since the beginning was that history would repeat itself. That we’d not address any of the issues. And truthfully, it is … in a way. We are NOT dealing with his issues. We are barely dealing with the “us” issues. The difference – I’m dealing with ME this time. But I’m terrified that history will repeat itself again – no doubt about it. We’ve been here before … we’ll be here again …
    Gah. Happy Friday everyone.

    1. Kimberly,
      I admire your bravery too, and your honesty. And ya know what? You get to decide if history repeats itself. You get to decide what happens next. It sounds as though you have a lot of insight into what happened and how it happened. You and your husband, if you're willing to be as radically honest with each other as you've been with us today, can commit to creating something different than you've had. A relationship in which you talk to each other about what's working and what's not and what you need. I hope he'll meet you halfway.

    2. Kimberly, I love you too! Thanks for that. We do and say a lot of terrible, awful things when we are hurting. And you get to decide whether history repeats itself or not. You don't have to sit around and wait for it to happen. What do you need to move forward? Is it couples therapy? Transparency from you both? Think about what being happy and feeling safe would be like. Don't you deserve those things?
      I know your body is super busy making a baby right now. Go easy on yourself, and ask for help from the people in your life, friends, family etc. and keep breathing.

    3. Hi Kimberly
      Easier said than done, but I hope you can find some peace leading into the last months of your pregnancy and birth. Take care of yourself and your little ones - lots of aunties here.
      Gabby xo

  5. Whoa ladies. Whoa SS1. This is huge. This is a perfect example and illustration of that shame based acting out. It’s one of the reasons that i often just let things go and don’t try to turn everything (tv, movies, real life) into a teachable moment.
    Sometimes a person needs a break.
    One of my deepest Shames is hitting my dog in the face. Friends were dog sitting him when i and a BF were visiting. We got in late, my dog got excited so i got on the floor with him. I knew it was imperative that we ALL stay quiet sos not to wake our hosts who had to work in the morning. My dog kept looking at the BF who had his tongue out. Panting at my dog and barking at him which was whipping my dog into a frenzy. I stood up and told BF to knock it off. Told dog to knock it off but BF didn’t listen and it KEPT ESCALATING because the BF would not knock it off . SO I FUCKING HIT MY DOG.

    BF acts all startled and shaming me and laughing at me “oh that was nice”. In fact he showed more disdain for me than compassion for my dog who i had never, ever laid a hand on before.
    i was back on the floor with immediately consoling my dog as BF went on and on about my behavior until i said “fuck You, i hit him because i wanted to fucking hit you”.

    I think he brought that moment up twice in what was left of my relation ship and both times i wanted to just DIE. I still can’t believe i did it. And if someone reminded me of that shameful moment daily i don’t know what i would do. I hope by sharing these stories it can take some of that secret shame off you all. Because secrets and shame dwell best in the dark. Hauling them out to the light of the day i think
    Can help a whole lot. Thank you all

    1. Steam, you are right that shame makes us do things and later we carry them around and hide them because we can't believe we DID that. Also your old BF sounds like a dick.
      Sharing these stories lets us bring our shame out into the light of day, where it doesn't survive long. The more I own and live in the reality of my story, the less power it has over me.

  6. SS, thank you for sharing - and so good to “see” you too :-)
    I am not certain if you recall, yet I had cheated on my first husband. As Esther Perel notes in her latest book on affairs, people justify their cheating as somehow not as bad as someone else’s. I am certainly not saying you did this… Yet I have actually heard it from peoples’ mouths. For example, my sister was so very angry at my husband for cheating on me… As was I… Yet when I said to her, well I cheated as well in my first marriage, she defended me saying that that was somehow different because the affair wasn’t as long. I had to remind her that perhaps it was not as long, but I did leave my husband and go with my affair partner ( which to me has to be so incredibly devastating) That relationship did not work out ( surprise surprise ) I had tremendous guilt regarding the affair.
    Guilt and shame. So much of what you described in your post, SS, is exactly what drove me into the affair and kept me there despite my knowing that it was wrong. From the time my affair partner expressed his desire for me, to the time I left my husband, was exactly 6 weeks. I had lost 15 pounds in those six weeks, weight I did not have to lose. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep… I was a mess. And somehow in my warped mind I felt that if my husband did not notice what I was going through that he must not be very in tune with me… That he must not love me. I listened to my affair partner. It was as if I was not even myself. A year or so after I left, my ex-husband wrote me a letter forgiving me. I cherish that letter. When I met my current husband I told him time and again of the circumstances surrounding my affair. I did my best to warn him. When he had his affair, he would lament to me and to our therapist, “you told me and I didn’t listen.” I may be in a minority here, yet I do not believe that all cheaters are pathological in nature. Sex addiction, yes, cheating, not necessarily so.
    By no means am I saying that cheating is acceptable. I am simply saying that it is understandable. It is, and always will be, a part of our human history and human nature.

    1. Melissa, thanks for sharing your story too. I definitely did a comparative study of my vs his cheating. But I eventually got to a place where I saw that it all sucked equally. And an emotional affair hurts just as much as a physical. But you'll hear people say ,if it was just sex It wouldn't have been so bad. And then someone else will say, if he'd had feelings for her I would understand. I think its a version of the grass is horribly greener. You just wish something else had happened. Bottom line is everyone is going to respond badly to a betrayal of trust.
      I think the way my therapist helped me frame it up was interesting. Both our betrayals were equally bad and painful. Its our choices and how we acted after disclosure/discovery that separate our experiences. He got a remorseful spouse who worked hard to make amends, gave him access to phone and emails and completely changed jobs and wanted to make things work. I got a guy who could be crowned king of the waffles and who blatantly carried on the affair while living with me. Until I said enough. Maybe I'm justifying. I hope not.
      It's amazing that your ex husband wrote you that letter.
      And I agree with you that not all cheaters are pathological. I think there are just a lot of walking wounded out there.

    2. Melissa - out of curiosity - have you written a forgiveness letter to your husband? Knowing how your ex-husband's letter helped you?

      SS1 - My IC let me know immediately that I did not get to sit and act as judge and juror as to which affair was better or worse - they were both a disrespect to our marriage. That was huge for me ... because I spent a lot of time thinking that his was SO much worse because he was going to leave for her ...

      And ... as much as I hated it ... anyone I told about H's affair, I also told about mine. Because really I could *see* how it happened, which made my biggest issues with how he would want to leave and how he acted after DDay.

      I think the most humbling moment was one day driving home I was ready to just blow up the OW's world. I have a ton of addresses for family members (thank you Spokeo) and I know where she lives and her birthday was coming up [back story - I received the "I love you as the mother of my children" e-mail the day before my birthday. DDay was 3 days AFTER my birthday ] ... I was practically drooling at how I could do all kinds of things to ruin her birthday. And it dawned on me ... how do I get to judge her when I have my own skeletons in the closet. How could I contact her Husband and family to let them know about her cheating ways ... if no one ever did that to me?

      So instead - I hold on to karma. I know that karma does come back to haunt you ... and it SUCKS! So eventually it will find her too.

  7. I guess the thing that I get stuck on is the history repeating itself with your kids. My husband had an awful childhood with no love and respect. He was physically abused and put down. I come into the picture and so do my loving parents and then he has an affair at year 17. My daughter at 15 finds out on her own, starts to cut and then I have to put my stuff on the back burner because I need to tend to her and her heart and cutting. She did this because of him. So while I can learn to forgive and move on, it’s hard to wrap my head around her. Like was she ruined for life with thinking she wasn’t enough and her mom wasn’t enough and her brother? He chose another over all of us. She went to therapy and we talk and have recovered as a family but in her mind is it all just a coverup? Will her first heartbreak dig this all up? I tried to protect and cover up my feelings so the kids knew nothing and then come to find out they saw it when they were alone with him. They saw the guarded phone, they saw his KIK app and reprimanded him ( I had no clue of any of this). They knew about the app and demanded he uninstall it. Ugh it just makes me sick that this happened to me BUT more that it happened to them. I try ever so hard to love my children and spend one on one time with them. For about 6 months I was a zombie due to the affair and I regret that. I just couldn’t get a grip and so not proud of that! For all the moms that are in the zombie phase, pull yourself up and out of this funk so that you don’t lose time with them. I feel like my sons junior and senior year were so full of pain that he wanted to move out. I would give anything to have 24 months with him minus all the affair shit.

    1. Heartfelt, I'm so sorry for your girl. My daughter also knew before I did and had to drag her father out to buy me presents so I would have a Christmas. Talk about parentification. And she was just trying to survive and make sure I didn't get hurt. Its so much for our children to cope with. And girls, especially, will feel the betrayal as if it was personal, because they may identify with their mothers. My daughter is still bitter and doesn't love spending time with her dad. She even said, he chose another family, of course I feel unloved and abandoned. She did go to therapy and I am hoping she will go again while she is in college. I found a therapist up there for her.
      The best thing you can do for your kids is work on your own healing and agency. You modxel healthy coping skills. You talk with them, in age appropriate ways about how you are doing. They can tell when you are not ok, so be real with them about it. Sometimes my son will ask me how i;m doing with everything. I tell him. Most of the time I'm OK, but sometimes I get really sad about the divorce.
      Make sure your kids know you love them. Make space for them to talk. Sometimes I'll be playing aboard game with my son and he'll bring stuff up out of nowhere. Don't seat the zombie time. You needed that and its in the past. Focus on and model your own care. It will help your kids.
      And my kid's dad is working on improving his relationship with them, he's apologized to his daughter. Credit where its due, he's trying to make it better and he's in therapy working out his shit. It will make a difference.
      And you have lots more time with your kids. Even as they go off to college and enter adulthood, the quality of your relationship will be up to you. You can choose to be active and involved in healthy ways in their lives. Your son will still go on vacations with you. You will all be OK.

    2. Heartfelt
      I understand what you mean about wanting that time back with your kids. My oldest was 14 and my youngest, of five kids, was 7. I would lock myself in my room and cry. My kids didn't know what had happened or why I was acting this way. I think they blamed it on my way of dealing with my mother having stomach cancer.
      It's hard for me to not add this to the resentment I feel towards my H.

  8. Heartfelt
    My heart is breaking for you with what your children have gone through.
    Please. Please don't beat yourself up over it. You have been dealt an extremely traumatic blow and no one knows how you will deal with all this until it happens to you. You are human too, and as much as we wish to be super moms, we can not be everything to our kids all the time. You are a very caring and loving mom, and you have had so much to deal with - That goes without saying as you put your daughters needs before your own. That alone shows such strength of character to put your daughters well being before yours.
    It does suck how our husbands don't realise what they did DOES effect the children. May not come out now, but could come out later down their life.
    I have some girlfriends, and your story here, whose children have discovered their father cheating through messages on his phone, and have kept it from their mom for fear of their moms being hurt! The burden these kids carry with this knowledge is devastating.
    May I suggest you and your kids go to counselling as a family. It's not too late to be present with your son.
    Best wishes to you Heartfelt
    Gabby xo

    1. Gabby this is some top notch advice. Family counseling with your kids is huge. Creates a safe place and teaches you all how to talk about feelings together. Great stuff!
      Hugs Gabby XOXOXOXo

  9. Okay. I've felt ashamed for this and I'm just going to say it here even though I'm suppose to be taking a break mentally from this site I'm totally addicted to you women and your beautiful souls

    Kimberly. Please read this.

    i believe you are the one that lead me to the beautiful elles BWC site. I was cyber stalking "shattered wifes" site for a way to get out the exteme pain i was in. I was going so nuts not letting it out and I needed a venue to vent and be heard. At the time I thought The whore was pregnant. Shattered wife's site, validated my hate and encouraged my separation... which was not what I wanted. A woman named kimberly encouraged me to visit some links. I didn't connect the digital dots to you Kimberly before and maybe I'm way wrong and it wasnt you but that doesn't even matter for what i have to say next.

    Before assigning my blindsided name I posted a few times on here. And I posted on one of your posts. You had made a small comment of your own affair you described above. I pounced. How could you be a "OW" and be allowed to post on here. I attacked. What a lovely person I am right? What thanks you get for leading me to the light of the BWC and away from the dark dark pit i lived in. I thought id have lots of people chiming in. No one did. I'm so thankful for that. Elle gave you a really beautiful and encouraging post. A perfect stranger and i garthered hate. I'm sickened by my post now... and even when submitting it I knew it was wrong. It was not kind and it was not helpful... to anyone. I am ashamed of my behaviour. I rationized it that it might not be you... that you don't know it was me so forget it. You know What? I'm sorry. I did that. I'm low and I'm gonna practice what I preach. Please Kimberly. I hope you can forgive me. And you know what else? You are forgiven for the affair too. You have value. You deserve love and I hope you can feel it in your heart. Our choices do shape our future and there is often consequence to our actions but even if we error, forgiveness can given move us forward in peace rather then in pain and fear if we accept it.

    I'm fully aware I suck when comes to a great many things. I did not have an affair, however I did act in a hideous hateful borderline murderous outrage after d day... Like all the time. For months. In hindsight i think my actions are far worse then an affair as they were meant to harm and hurt in an extreme way. An affair is about selfishness, the hurt is only a consequence and genuinely unforseen and a shock for first time offenders (not all the time but I think most). If it is a second affair i dont know ... currently my gloves come off, I dont know how to sort that out in My value system yet. I hope it's never challenged.

    Anyway... My actions are mortifying to me now as i sit with my beautiful peace in my head. What was i gunna get from all my attacks? My kids to grow up without their dad because he decided to shoot himself like i told him to? What did i teach my kids while I hated so strong and for so long?. What under tones did they observe or pick up and will they now take with them into their own relationships? There are always consequences to our faults... but thankfully there is still hope in forgiveness.

    We are all so imperfect. If you fall today I will help you up so you can do the same for me tomorrow. One of my biggest lessons and I continue to learn it every day is not to judge but love and forgive. It's hard.

    Kimberly. If you actually made it to the end of all this rambling... Seriously Lots of love to you. And that beautiful baby belly of yours. Im still seriously jealous of it. Id love to have another. Lol that crazy blindsided chick huh. :)


    1. Blindsided - I am in deed that same Kimberly. :) Oddly enough, I did not see this until yesterday. I had an OB/Gyn appointment and was feeling a little down. I literally trudged from the office to my car, hopped on my phone to this site and scrolling found this. And then I went back to Shattered Wives page and reread your original post ... my heart broke all over again for you. I was fresh into my pregnancy and I remember thinking - I would have killed my H if I'd learned this after my pregnancy. Just for the sheer fact that my hormones will be even more off balance then! And the idea of having 3 so little and having to hold your shit together for them ... LOL when I knew I was barely holding mine together and I only have 1 so young!

      I honestly didn't see any negative post about my mention of the affair. I knew I'd briefly alluded to it - but apparently didn't go back and read anything else along the way and today I can't even remember where I would have mentioned it ... and thankfully I'm not sure how to search this site to even try to go find it.

      But if I had - you probably wouldn't have said anything that I didn't already think to myself. I've often wondered if I deserved the sympathy of our fellow betrayed when I was the one who was once a betrayer. When I know that there is a wife out there who may or may not have any idea that her H is a habitual cheater ... in fact, if I'd wanted to I could have easily slid right back into that OW role because this guy is still out cheating and would "happily give me an ego boost whenever I needed it." I know because I contacted him back in August when I was so dead set on blowing up the OW's world. I read so many blogs and articles about NOT contacting the OW because you didn't know if she could come back after you. I knew the only thing that she could possibly hurt me through would be to contact my AP's wife. I've known this guy since I was 12 years old ... I thought I at least owed him the courtesy of warning him that his "facade" could be coming down. He called me 3 months later to "see how I was doing." I was quickly reminded of how pathetic some men are and soon spiraled into a black abyss because if this guy was such a douche ... would my H be as well?

      Blindsided - I am glad that you followed the bread crumbs to this site. Elle and so many others have been there to be my ears ... but also to give me that gentle nudge back to reality when I so desperately needed it. I've told people about this site (but have never mentioned the blog name) and just said "it's not all sunshine and rainbows ... but it's one that spells out hope for whatever the future brings." I stand by that!

  10. Thank you for your courage, SS1. Great post. Here's my shame. I did not cheat on H because long before I was married, I was an OW. Before I was old enough to order a drink (no excuse), I was thousands of miles from home (no excuse) and a guy I worked with convinced me that his was an open marriage (not). I was ashamed, but in my warped mind I could justify the A if we ended up together. We didn't. It took a bunch of his lies (read: OWs) before I found the sense to walk away. I learned my lesson, and decided NEVER AGAIN, from any side of any marriage.

    Fast forward three decades. H's disclosure brought me to my knees, and part of me feels like I had it coming. But here's the thing: no one deserves to be betrayed. Ever. There's always a better way to deal with pain. Hugs to all. xo

    1. Snowbird, thanks for sharing your story too. I'm glad you learned that you deserved better. It's what I wished I could tell the OW in my story too.
      And yes, no one deserves to be betrayed. Ever. xo

  11. SS1, this was MINDBLOWING!!! I couldn't breathe as I was reading it..and when I finished, I felt a sense of relief. I know my husband has deep issues that made him chose to cheat. But reading those words from someone who put it out there from experience has actually brought me some comfort and understanding. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. Donna, I'm glad it helped. That's really what I wanted. For this to give people some understanding, maybe fill in some blanks. I know early on all I wanted was answers and more answers and giant sign posts pointing the way. I felt like sharing my experience might be that. XO

  12. Truth is, while is was convicted about writing and sharing this, I was also pretty darn scared. Scared that some of you would be shocked, horrified, disappointed, hate me. But when I though about it I realized that was the little girl thinking. The grown up knew the story was important and also that owning your story and sharing it, especially when people can relate to your experience, it can help. I had not decided if I was going to read the comments or not. But discussing it with Elle i felt that we should just let it roll and I would deal with the response because invariably the women here amaze me with their strength and compassion.
    The morning this was going to be posted, I had a wee bit of adrenaline. But in my inbox was a newsletter with a headline "Permission to Be Real." I had to smile. In it the author talks about being real as showing up as we are, with both good parts and bad parts. (well you've all seen ALL my bad parts now). The author also talked about how, when someone shows up with their whole self, it creates a safe place for others to shed their masks and be themselves too. And I feel like that's exactly what happened.
    Thanks so much for your kindness and compassion.

    1. SS1,
      I wanted to thank you for offering your insight and to tell you how much I admire your honesty. I read your post on Friday post and my heart opened to you because I understood your pain.
      I've been wrestling with feelings I can't quite pin down since then. Mostly, I think I'm digging deeper into my own "stuff". But wrestling with my own insecurities is uncomfortable and it's easier to just get angry. Angry with my husband for cheating, angry with my mother-in-law for the pain my husband experienced as a child, angry with the OW for being available, and angry at myself for not being able to extend grace or compassion to the people I blame for my husband's infidelity. It's far easier to hang onto resentment than to acknowledge the pain behind their actions.
      This uncomfortable feeling I'm experiencing is telling me I've got more work to do on me. But some of that work requires being more vulnerable and that still scares me sometimes. And I have to be honest in acknowledging that my husband is showing up for me every day and I'm not always meeting him halfway.
      It's certainly easier to admit your own vulnerabilities when people share theirs with you.
      Hugs and ❤️!

    2. Dandelion, I struggle with insecurities too. and anger and blame. I still get so angry with my mother sometimes. I don't know that I'll ever forgive her. I softened toward her for a good while, during the time she cared for my father with alzheimers, but after dday I was angry again. At her. Because I felt on some level that if she hadn't been such a mess (PTSD was not her fault etc) then I would have had better radar when it came to relationships. But if I'd had better radar, I would not have either of my kids. and I get mad and short tempered with my mother in law (who still lives with me) because this is somehow all her fault too. I'm mad at everyone who could have done better by us as children. And as you say, so much easier to sit in blame than really look at myself. So when I feel short tempered with my MIL, I need to remind myself that she is doing her best and that she wasn't puppeteering my ex husband's moves. He made them all by himself, just like I made mine. She still kind of triggers me though. :) I am trying to work on it.
      Im tired and rambling a little, I think? I hope you are feeling less unsettled and remember that there is an army of women here with you as we all wrestle with getting real and vulnerable.

    3. Wait! Your MIL lives with you ... and he doesn't! Oh SS1 ... you are a SAINT! LOL ... you never cease to amaze me.

      You are right. It is certainly easier to let someone else take the burden of blame from us. Our parents are our first source of defense against our future selves ... when they don't have their own defenses they can't teach us ours. MY IC kept saying "your mother did the best she knew how." Which only pissed me off because that will be the same shit excuse that some therapist will be giving my children some day too.

  13. SS1
    AS per my comment 24 Jan 2018 5:58pm re "men"
    I'll add....
    You have been betrayed so early on in life by your friend raping you. How in the hell do you ever get over that?
    Unfortunately this heinous act by your "friend" has left you scarred and you acted out, from what was done to you, out of a place of pure pain, betrayal, desperation, rage, god the list in endless for those girls/women who have had this happen to them. My heart goes out to you.
    But you my dear dear friend. You are working on you and offering so many of us here your knowledge through experience. You are an extremely wise women and compassionate person and I'm happy to call you my friend.
    Much love and hugs to you
    Gabby xo

    1. Much love right back Gabby. I think i got over being raped in the same way we work to get over betrayal. One day at a time and by accepting that it wasn't my fault and dealing with the shame and pain. I can honestly say that while I get angry about it, when I read about this happening to others, I rarely get triggered about it anymore. There are movies and scenes of violence that I can't do, but I think that is me in general and not specifically attributable to being raped. I rarely think of it, I don't identify myself as a survivor anymore even. So in many, many ways, it give s me hope that I can get past this latest betrayal too.
      And honestly, They feel pretty similar. If anything the hurt form infidelity is worse in some ways. The first was just some guy I thought was my friend. Later I learned that what I thought were acts of kindness (being the designated driver and making sure the drunk girls got home) were really just grooming behaviors. I learned later that he was a repeat offender (true to the profile). With my husband, the pain was greater because the loss was greater. He was supposed to protect me and he harmed me the most.
      There's a shelf in my head, where I keep people who have really hurt me. There was always just two people up there; my mom and that friend. And now there are three. Like little china figure standing up there. I know it's weird.
      So I think the short version of that ramble is; With time and work you can get through/past/beyond anything.
      Gabby I'm proud and happy to call you my friend. Hugs right back, SS1

    2. Still standing one and only
      Wow just wow. That shelf you speak of omg I have that same shelf! My two began with my mother as well and dear God I didn’t endure rape but I did endure many of my h drunk friends that took advantage of me when he wasn’t looking...but looking back, I always had the audacity to cut them short of going past the point of no return... I’m not sure how. I have always been the one that had to stay in control? Not go too far...all the way back to our dating years to getting us through his betrayal. The only way I find that happened is the many years of therapy and lessons learned from the hard knocks of life! Just damn you have the words that I have lived through just like Elle! Many hugs to you and Gabby that we will share one day! I just know it!

  14. Thanks so much for this post. I’m less than one month out past dday and struggling to make any sense of my husband’s affair. He keeps telling me he doesn’t know how he could have done it, risked everything (18 year relationship two kids) for so little. This post really hit the nail on the head for me. Looking at it in the context of unresolved childhood trauma finally starts to make some sense. His mom died when he was a kid and he was left with just his dad, as an only child. His dad is a classic pain burier and never confronted his own, or his son’s pain. He even wanted to have my husband raised by some friends because he lacked confidence in his own parenting skills. When I connect all of this to our marriage I see that he had a fierce need for validation and attention that I don’t share, because I came from a large family. Once we had the kids and most of my attention shifted to them, he felt threatened and unloved. He told me on numerous occasions that he felt unloved and I was like “that’s ridiculous of course I love you” while thinking grow up! We have kids, it can’t be like it was, I barely have time to shower. Now I see how threatened, hurt, and full of self doubt he was. Throw in a mismatched libido for extra hurt.

    Anyways your post really helped me yesterday. I am at the point where every day pretty much sucks and I’m just trying to live each day with whatever grace I can muster. Yesterday was the first day that I felt better than the day before. My heart was a tiny bit softer. And for me that is a step on my path of healing. Thanks.

    1. NorCal, Your post brought tears to my eyes. You must be feeling so raw. This is so fresh an to read this post from me, wow that's some strength you have.
      I'm so glad the post helped you feel even the tiniest bit better. I'm sending you a giant, enormous, tremendous hug. (And another for the little boy who lost his mother. So much unacknowledged pain there).
      I hope you are taking care of you and have support in your life to help you in this most difficult of times. Go easy on yourself. Hugs and Love, SS1

    2. NorCal - we are 7 months post DDay and H still can't answer his "why" ... it infuriates me that he doesn't understand what it was that pushed him over the edge because in my head until he does ... will I ever truly be safe from it happening again? BUT ... as Elle and so many have been telling me for the past 5 months - I am NOT in control of him. I'm in control of myself. And I have to determine what it is that will make me feel safe.

      I think the first thing I had to do was disconnect my sympathy for how he got to where he was - just because I didn't want sex when I was exhausted from raising our children, doesn't excuse the fact that he didn't try either (or quit trying ... which is his excuse). Just because his libido is bigger than mine (or was ... LOL ...) doesn't mean that he has to go outside of our marriage to have his needs met. Just because he assumed I wasn't happy in this marriage and wouldn't care if he left ... doesn't excuse his inability to communicate that with me.

      Every single blame he threw my way in the beginning - I owned. Now ... not so much.

      How many times were we filled with self doubt? How many times did we look at our new bodies and think "does he still find me attractive?" How many times did we wonder if we were attentive enough to our kids ... to our spouses ... to the world around us? WHY are we the ones who have to pay them attention instead of it being the other way around?

      LOL ... now I feel like the volcano erupting!

      My H has been willing to start looking inward. It took a lot of effort on my part to actually see that as I'm still blinded by the pain of betrayal and the need to be in control. Hopefully your H will be willing to do the same and even if they aren't capable of coming up with a verbalized WHY they'll own it and work on making sure it doesn't happen again.

    3. Kimberly
      I hear what you’re saying, that the transition into motherhood is very intense and most of the burden of taking care of the babies generally falls to us as women. We deserve to be given extra attention perhaps to a greater degree than our husbands deserve to get attention, because we are shouldering the work. Hence my thoughts of Grow Up!!!

      And to a degree I think that’s part of it, men have no idea how taxing new motherhood is, if they did maybe they would step up instead of stepping out. What about this period in their lives allows so many of them to rationalize affairs? I keep reading that the early years (my kids are 4&1) are common years for men to have affairs. I think society has failed them in terms of setting up expectations of what it’s like to have kids! Because this is when we need them the most. It’s infuriating!

      My husband had talked about his loneliness and our lack of sex being issues multiple times, but frankly I didn’t prioritize that with everything else going on, I can own that. But I also need him to own that his expectations of great sex and having fun all the time were unrealistic. I think he’s thinking about it. (He had the classic affair with an 18 year old! Unbelievable! He felt young! He felt alive! She wanted to have fun! Barf!!!!) I’m asking him to really examine how her age plays into this. His shame is really getting in the way of this. In the first week I called him disgusting and depraved for being able to do that to a “girl” which made him really uncomfortable, but hey, she is a girl to me. I’m getting off topic....anger!

      I found looking at his childhood loss helpful (so did he). A reason, not an excuse.

      Anyways he is doing everything right and I’ve spent the last month erupting at him. I’ve decided that if we have any hope, I need to start trying to heal. I acknowledge that expressing anger is a part of this. I’m sick of the daily fights. I’m exhausted. My anger is getting in the way now. I have decided that tonight he can sleep in our room for the first time. I’m not ready for sex, but I need to start at least trying to let him hold me, for both of us.

      I’ve started reading After The Affair and I’m buying in to her philosophy of faking it til you make it. She says if you wait until you feel sure you want to have connection it’s usually too late. He is listening to me, he is assuring me, he has broken off contact and given me his passwords, he apologizes daily, he answers my questions. It still doesn’t feel like enough but I don’t know what else I need right now. So I’ll try to let him in closer and see how that feels. Because keeping him at arms length seems to be making things worse. Wish me luck.

  15. I wrote another post but it didn't make it on the site. Too much information or i didn't hit send or maybe offensive? I dont know. But i can't stop thinking about this post. I have learned something from it and it's kinda big for me. I want to share! I'll drop it Elle if you ignore this one. :(

    I was/am battling a huge amount of anger because of my husband's affair. Prior to I had no tools to stop my crazy lash outs. I've said and done awful things to my husband. I would have LOVED to do the same to my husbands whore too... Thankfully i didnt execute any of my well thought out revenge plans.

    After d day I saw the affair as a reflection of me. I saw it as my failure and when I was trying so damn hard and loving forgiving and trusting so damn much it was beyond devastating to find out the extent of my husband's betrayal to our entire life we had built.

    So I needed answers and I needed them fast because I was going to the nut house or me or my husband were not going to be alive another month. None of those possibilities sounded good so I searched and read and learned SO much.

    Things I learned on this site and from all of you:
    1. The affair was not my fault and the affair was a reflection of his damage and not mine
    3. It was going to take time to heal. There are stages of grief to go through as you say good bye to the life you thought you had BUT saying goodbye to the old life with the right work would actually be better for your marriage in the long run.
    4. He did not actually mean to harm me. When the bomb went off inside him I was kind of like collateral damage.
    5. He did not love her. He loved the reflection he saw of himself when he was with her.

    YOU ALL HAVE HELPLED TO GET ME HERE. You have no idea how broken I was. It's like it seems impossible I am in the state I am now based on where i was.

    I have a point I promise I will get there... I'm up to a new thing I have learned and it is BIG ( for me anyways lol)

    1. Quick FYI: I don't censor messages unless they're a)trying to sell "spell casters", which is ridiculously common or b) they're cruel and/or violate privacy, which is extremely rare.

  16. Cont...

    Getting through this affair anger I didnt notice i began to place myself above the man who hurt me and the woman who helped him do it... unconsciously. This goes against what I say i believe so I couldnt admit to myself I was doing it. I was better then them. Look at me, I'm perfect.

    Okay. So my belief system then transformed to the fact that there was two types of women... selfish insecure hurtful whores and the kind giving faithful wifes.

    I referenced my h's whore, and other husbands whores as such. With degrading comments and lash outs. And up lifted those who have been hurt. They suck, we are awesome.

    Now this post.

    There are many of you that have been in the "Ow" position. And you are just the ones brave enough to come forward. But this is where i am going with all this.....

    I f*&^ing love you guys.

    I love your thoughts and your feelings. I literally feel your pain when you post it and I have no idea who you are but I think of you. I wonder how Kimberly is doing with her pregnancy; I worry for gabby and love just reading her posts to know she is standing up and fighting (recently i feel like my path may end up like hers one day); I wonder if Elle stays up all night reading people's posts like mine and thinks man I gotta get out of this blog somehow :); I wonder if i read it right that SS1 has a boyfriend and how cool is that for her and I hope she tells us more about him one day.

    So. Does that mean that I genuinely care, think about and love my husband's whore?


    Maybe not at this moment in her life... But fast forward a bit and poof she is you. All of you who have been there before.

    Okay. New theory again. There are not two groups of women but one. Each of us fall in differnt ways for one reason or another but none of us is any better. I have never been an OW BUT i know some of you would have a hard time looking at me the same if you saw what I did after learning that my husband lied about a coworker who was beautiful and just added to his shift Post d day. I am so so ashamed. No excuse for my actions. I am NO where near perfect.

    Okay so I know we are all imperfect. I've known that and I believe that. But to now say not only is my husbands whore No better then ME but that i am also no better then HER, hard to swollow. Even more so, that I could actually like, no, not like, love her. I could actually CARE about her. This is difficult to process but I cannot come to any other conclusion. Two of you woman could have crossed paths in affairs (one being wife one being OW) and NOT EVEN KNOW IT as you exchange xoxos to one another. My mind is blowing up.

    Okay okay okay. Focus. Fact: I dont want to hate any of you. Not a one. I want to say I'm sorry that you still feel affected by a wrong choice you made years ago and I pray you can find forgiveness so that it will never bother you again. But then in the other breath put my husband's whore on the cross... nope. Can't. That would be so illogical. So unfair, so hypocritical and so wrong. So I SAY i want love over hate. I guess i really do. Even with her! So so crazy. Im not gunna like, call her up now for a coffee date lol but I cannot hate her. It's easy to pity her sure but I should go a step further and hope good things for her and her life. Blahhhhhhh. Tough.

    Just my thoughts. They arnt meant to harm but only to help me process my own experiences and learning through this.


    1. Blindsided, I love your thought process. I love this thing that you've figured out. I struggled for a long time, feeling that I didn't deserve support here because of my time "on the otherside" but Elle suggested that my own mistakes did not make me any less betrayed now. wow. So it is true of any of us here. We are all worthy of love and support and I think we are all working hard don our own stuff. And I think if you read past posts, the folks who just come to call names or taunt or justify don't stick around long.
      So I think we have more than just betrayal in common here. we are also untied in our desire to heal, to do better for ourselves, to become better versions of our selves, AND to help each other do the same.
      I read a beautiful post elsewhere, about traveling companions and how we are all like birds flying in a V formation. We work as a community and when the bird in front gets tired, and other flies up and takes her place in the lead for a while and so on. It means we can tackle challenges and feel others moving alongside us. And we'll be sheltered by those same friends. And in the end we all move along faster when we move together.
      And it made me think about your comments and all of us here at BWC.
      And, not surprisingly, the more I tell this story (at the right place, in the right time) the more I stand in the truth of my own history, the more complete I feel. I'm not taking out a billboard about it, but I don't feel like I'm living a lie anymore either. It's incredibly powerful.
      Hugs Blindsided. I love your energy and thoughts.

    2. Blindsided
      I get what you’re saying about caring about the OW. My story is kind of crazy.

      I mentioned above my H had a classic midlife crisis affair w an 18 year old. He’s 41. We have a 4 and 1 year old. The OW work(ed) for us at our small business. We have known her for 3.5 years, so since she was a kid. She and my husband Became close this summer when she disclosed to him that her father had sexually abused her for years. She felt safe with my H to discuss this. So I told her that I would support her by making him available to talk. Commence the long walks, her crashing at our house, watching our kids. I told my H that their relationship seemed too intense. His response was that he was supporting her. He convinced her to finally tell her mom about the abuse. I held her hand as her mom wept and apologized for never realizing. Their nightly walks after work continued. He made time to take her kayaking, while I was home with our two kids. I told him I was lonely, feeling left out, he assured me as soon as she left for college we would have our life back. I held him as he wept telling me about the things she had let boys her age do to her, choking etc. her suicide attempt. I cried for her so much. We hosted a fundraiser for her college fund, donated $1000.

      He went to visit her at college. Said she needed support, she didyhave friends yet, he was worried. I begged him not to go. I cried. I told him their relationship was beginning to make me feel uncomfortable. He assured me that he’d never cheat, especially w her, I was always the most important. Me and the kids.

      Well he started fucking her 2 weeks before she left for college. Constant sexting. They decided to end it while he was visiting her. But the sexting continued until I found the texts on dec 31. So it wasn’t really over. He just didn’t get opportunities over Xmas break.

      I left home for 4 days with the kids when I found out. On my trip I realized that I still love her. She is a broken kid. She just way to feel loved. She feels awful. He had convinced her our marriage was unhappy. She is examining what a relationship w a married man means in the context of her abuse. It was a form of punishment. She doesn’t believe she deserves a relationship with someone who could make her the focus. She is trying to move on.

      I realized that I was going to have a harder time forgiving my husband for what he did to her than what he did to me! Well maybe not harder but it is a big issue. He knew better. He put her in a position of having another terrible secret. He thought he was showing her what a sweet lover was like but he showed her even nice guys with nice wives cheat. And this is a girl w major trust issues! He painted himself as her confidant and white knight but he betrayed her. Just like every other adult in her life. I decided I didn’t want to be another adult who failed her. I couldn’t let her be collateral damage in our marriage. So I went for a walk with her and told her all of this. That I forgive her. That I still love her. That most of the blame falls on my husband. That I hope she will examine what attracted her to him and to look at how her history led her to him. That she deserves better.

      I recognize that my H has been supporting her emotionally. I have forbidden contact between them but I continue to text w her. I’m trying to support her. When she saw her dad on the cover of our local paper and was freaked out she texted me. When she was assigned The Scarlet Letter in her literature class, she wanted me to know about how deeply sorry she is and how she thought it was fitting she had to read it. I’m trying to be graceful and understanding towards her. It’s actually way easier than being that for her than for my H! I’m proud of how I’m handling her.

      It makes me less questioning of my own self worth through all of this. I don’t blame her. I forgive her.

      Can I ever forgive him?

    3. Wow Blindsided. This is incredible. I know my healing really REALLY began the day I was able to see the OW as worthy of my empathy, not just my rage. The day I could see her as fully human was the day I could let go of so much anger, which was really only hurting me. So brava girl!!
      And while I don't stay up all night, I do try to read as much as I can and respond to those who really are hurting, or new to the site, or who address me specifically (though, as you can see, it might take a few days, especially during weeks like this one). But what you've figured out is huge. And so so many never get there (which is okay, of course. We all walk our own path.)

    4. And NorCal,
      I'm devastated by your story. I admire you so much for your ability to separate the actions of this girl with her heart. And I completely understand your difficulty forgiving your husband. It's troubling to me too. What he did was emotionally abusive. I'm curious what lens he sees his actions through. Is he able to recognize how twisted it is and how damaging his actions were, not only to you and your kids, of course, but to this girl that he was supposedly "helping"? I suppose that's where I'd be looking if I was hoping to forgive him -- for evidence that he's truly cognizant of the damage he's caused and the lines he crossed and a genuine desire to examine his thought process.
      I'm so sorry you're going through this. You have such incredible empathy and such a warm, open heart. I wish you much strength through this. Keep posting. We may not necessarily be able to offer answers, but we can sure hold your hand as you walk through this.

    5. NorCal. You story is certainly a tough one. A really really tough one to read and reflect on for me. It is very very difficult to have sympathy for your husband or not to make him out to be a monster and a villian... but as you have read above this goes against my new theory so he cannot be. There is something there in him that is fundamentally wrong... something deeply rooted in him that he cannot see or did not see during his hugely disastrous choices. The day will come that your own children will be 18 years old... i feel like if he is incredibly regretful and ashamed of his behaviour when this happens it will be extremely difficult for him, especially if you have a daughter. He will see the youthfulness in them. They are so so young still and although the 18 year old consented to his advances and knew they were wrong, she really and truely had no idea what she was agreeing to... and the damage it was going to cause her. wow. What a burden he will bare. But this is good!! Because the alternative is he never sees the truth or burries it so deep that he does not even recognize when a similar situation comes up. Then history will repeat itself.

      It is clear to anyone that this girl is broken and needs help. But NorCal... you need to take care of yourself too. Are you SURE supporting her isn't puting a strain on your marriage? Now which is more important? I'm incredibly empathetic for her... I've worked with abused kids before and she has been dealt a shitty hand. But support for your kids and your family unit trumps her support from you. Can she not set up some supports for herself, so you can walk away until you sort out your stuff? What will make it easier for you to do that? Seeing her hurt and her damage on an ongoing basis would be incredibly hard to work with your husband... impossible for me I know that. I know that visual or that text message or whatever would be another reminder of what a selfishly poor choice my husband made the question of how could he do this would be on repeat... but this might be helpful because the answer is clear... he has deep issues. Now it's time to look at them. You cannot self sacrifice here. This girl has been dealt a shitty hand but you have a family and children and one very very confused man that are more important if you decide to remain in the marriage. As incompassionat as this may sound... perhaps you need to let her work out her own stuff now so you can deal with the shitty hand you have been given.

      Lots of love NorCal... it never stops amazing me the strength give to people when faced with unbelievable situations. We are string then we think... and you will get through this.

  17. SS1,
    Thank you so much for posting this aspect of your story. You continue to be an inspiration to me. Your insights are profound and so helpful, especially the window into the other side. I know I struggle still wondering how my H could have done what in the world was he thinking about? How could he know I was building our home life, caring for his parents and our child, and decide to do these incredibly cruel things? I know he considered leaving me at one point but "couldn't do it". This confuses me... why were there some things he just "couldn't do" and then others he clearly "could". The fog and confusion you describe sounds very much like how he explains that. As he works on himself and speaks from his heart to me more and more now, it seems even more impossible that he could have done this, but he did. I assumed as we moved forward and healed, that somewhere down the line these things would finally all click into place for me. That it would at least make sense even as it hurt. I'm to the point now of just accepting the messy loose ends along with the rest of it. Some of it makes sense, and some of it just never will (for me anyway). Your post gives credibility to my thoughts that I can accept that his choices weren't based on some deficiency of mine even though I may never understand exactly all the factors they were based on. I think that's why we all struggle so much with the "why" and "how could you" questions... we're looking for more solid evidence that it's not us. Not our fault. Intellectually I think most of us can get there, but emotionally it is difficult when there is not logic or clarity of intention on the part of the person having the affair(s). Your post shows the twists and fog of that thinking. Perhaps your pain on the other side of it made you better able to process your thinking during that time. Thank you so much!

    1. Ann, I'm so glad it helped. Even a little. It's all I wanted to accomplish with this. I think there will always be messy loose ends, things he can't answer or things that will never make sense, because they don't line up with our internal stuff on some level. Even having been there, I don't understand all of my ex's choices. But I didn't experience the repeated horrors of his childhood. Its truly tragic and my heart is broken for him and me, but I am still left with questions. I think sometimes that's just the nature of the human condition.
      I think the "coulds" sometimes have to do with path of least resistance, most comfort or familiarity, even if that familiarity is a crappy one. We'll do what is easy or familiar even when we know it is bad for us. And I recently read a research piece on numbing to guilt and the more a person is exposed to and does a behavior that would initially create feelings of guilt, over time they feel less guilt or become numb to it, so there is less resistance to the problematic behavior.
      And yes, absolutely walking through my husbands affair, false reconciliation, marriage counseling, forced me to dredge up and wrestle with demons from that time. And a damn good thing too. I understand it much better and have a degree of acceptance and self forgiveness I had not achieved before, about anything.

  18. Thank you for sharing your story, it helps to understand the other side. How you felt. What made you keep going back.

    I have posted my story about 2 years ago here but I was the OW for a brief time. I was 26 years old, recently divorced, one son and needed money. No support from my family, my mother said, "You made your bed now lie in it, click" A friend of mine at the time pretended to love married men and got money from them. She was fairly successful at it. She knew she was really a prostitute and didn't care. I was 26 years old and cute. I targeted a middle aged physician. I flirted with him. Throttled up his ego - your so smart, your so handsome, blah blah. He did ask me out I knew he was married. We had 2 PA's at a hotel he had business but he had ED and no viagra back then. The thing was so disgusting to me that I never saw him again. I just stopped it. I knew he was married and I didn't care. I didn't think of his wife. He was doing this to his wife, I wasn't. All I wanted was money. He did give me babysitting money and was generous but that was it. I just couldn't keep doing it. I was desperate at the time. My friend and I would go to bars we called "suit bars" successful men, men who had money. She was pretty clever. I never went PA with any of these men just danced. Single and desperate is not a good combination. I just found the entire thing disgusting.

    1. LLP I love you, your fire, your honesty and your will to survive. You are such a fighter! I think I do recall your earlier post but I'm grateful you posted again here.
      I'm sorry you went through such a shitty, desperate and harrowing time. Where were your family? What were they thinking with the made your bed and lie in it attitude? Was divorce forbidden? I just can't imagine how hard that time was for you. I'm glad you survived. Hugs and love LLP, SS1

    2. You must be telepathic SS1 to ask me those questions. I'm getting off the affair anti-depressants. I figured some stuff I had to face. Anyway I triggered big again this last weekend. I started thinking at 2AM about why in the hell am I still stuck. I think like forgiveness there are degrees of stuckness too. Ok, my story is not "poor me" or for anyone to feel sorry for me at all. I'm ok with all of it. Anyway I woke my H up and said you need to hold me and just listen. Not hear but really listen. This is why I'm still stuck. I grew up in an affair home environment from 11-18 years old. I told him about my mom crying all the time. The fighting was terrible. The OW coming to our house, her husband wanted to fight my dad. (My H says my geography or history is terrible) I told him while he was reading away, no one told me to do my homework. (My H family went on a vacation every year) I told him while you were vacationing, my dad was spending money on the OW, we had no money for vacations. My sister went with my dad and OW for the day. I refused. I was alone much of the time. My mom decided it is time to divorce, my dad wanted to marry the OW. (My H lived in small house in a close community) I told him nobody in the neighborhood would play with us - the whole neighborhood knew about the affair, I can only image the gossip in 1964. I told my H how it felt to move all my things to a small apartment in a town I didn't know. I had to give my dog away. My mom started dating. I was left alone ALOT. My mom was a mess trying to prove herself. BING - my dad says he made a mistake and wants to come back. Then another move, more fighting, tears, we all have been there. This affair life changed my mom forever. No longer a Girl Scout Leader or softball couch but a bitter person. A revengeful person. She was going to make my dad pay. And he did for the rest of his life.
      She treated him not even like a human being. I'm getting to my point shortly. Then comes marriage one - abusive marriage. I gave him the D papers. I had no money. My mother was so bitter she just didn't care. I lived in friends basements. She gave me the old click several times. I can't imagine turning my back on my kids ever. My mom and dad were still in post affair land. They were self absorbed into their pain. I begged my mom not to go back to him. I think my dad really did love the OW. The OW called the house, he wouldn't leave my mom the second time.The OW shot herself in the head the next day. No shit story.

      I told my H I was always afraid he was going to have an affair. When he traveled I called his hotel at 2 am to see if he was there. I check his suitcase when he came home. All the stuff a new insecure wife does. So when he does the most heinous crime, I'm living my childhood over again. I'm living with the tears, fights, OW calling and financial risk. I'm re-living that nightmare again. THAT IS WHY IT IS SO FUCKING HARD TO GET UNSTUCK. I explained this timeline to him in graphic details and comparing his childhood to mine. He got it. He understood. He really did. It didn't change the way I feel. I'm beginning to think I sugar coat too much with him.
      When I get graphic, get in the details he gets it every time. But now since I realize the parallels in my life - I'm flushing that stuckness down the toilet of life. Thanks for the question SS1. I'm sure there are other woman out there who have painful parallels of pain that just exponentially explode without realizing it. If it wasn't for this site I would be nutso.

    3. LLP,
      I think that most of us for whom affairs just blow us wide open -- it's because of old wounds that never healed. I think for ANYONE an affair is devastating. But for some of us, it's confirmation that everything we feared about ourselves (that we're not lovable, not worthy, not "enough") is true. And so the affair wound re-opens the old wound. And until we heal that old stuff, the affair remains top of mind because it's a more recent pain.
      I screamed at my MOTHER after my husband's affair -- my poor, recovered alcoholic mother. I told her that it was HER fault I picked someone who would betray me because I'd been groomed to pick people who would choose something over me. I was HORRIBLE to her. To her credit, she took it. And she told me she was so sorry. And she listened to me, day in, day out, lay out my pain. And together, we healed. The old stuff got healed...and the new stuff got healed. But I was lucky. Not everyone has the person who hurt them be so willing to take responsibility for it.

    4. Amen...
      I had to set a very difficult boundary with my mother when I told her that I wasn’t the one that needed to just shut the fuck up! The first time in my life I ever said that word in her presence. That’s been a year ago and she has dementia but told her whole family that I told her to shut the fuck up. I’m finally okay that’s what happened because it helped heal our old hurts and that’s how I can now walk through the path of hospice knowing that I spent the last 5 years understanding her health conditions and living through the most heart wrenching betrayal of my life! That said... it is what my h now says is what he admires most about me... go figure... and I just thought it was because I got fat way back when he needed his ego boost- midlife crisis... he’s so not important and yet he is... he finally regained his right to my heart after 4 years of trying! I love you people beyond words! I can’t wait to hug y’all in person! I know my h will find a way! Hugs!

  19. SS1, Thank you for posting this.



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